View Full Version : Info on Sparring Techniques

5th March 2003, 02:04
Anyone can recommend a good book or video on sparring techniques?


Gary Dolce
5th March 2003, 05:58
Gassho Raul,

I know of only one document in English about Shorinji Kempo randori. It is called "About Randori" and was written in the early 1980's by a technical committee of senior instructors organized by Hombu. The key point in it is that randori should develop from hokei practice - that there aren't separate "sparring techniques" in Shorinji Kempo but instead randori is the application of the same techniques we use everyday in practice. The document gives some practice methods for making the transition from basic technique practice (e.g. uchi uke zuki) to applying those techniques in randori (using uchi uke zuki against a range of different attacks, etc.).

I really think this is key. Randori shouldn't be about tricks and special techniques. If the stances, footwork, basic strikes and blocks that we work on everyday aren't working during randori, then we need to step back and work more on mastering the basics.

I don't have the document in electronic form. If nobody else here does, I will try scanning it and sending you a copy.


tony leith
5th March 2003, 10:17
I don't have details to hand - maybe Anders or Steve do? - but I think Honbu have produced an instruction video on randori. I think Senseis Mizuno and Aosaka as well as Honbu technical staff were involved in making it.

I've had the opportunity to train with Mizuno Sensei twice recently, and he's given us a number of interesting exercises to build up confidence in randori practice. One is with full randori movement with one partner offering themselves as a human kickbag - control is obviously called for. The defending partner evades or blocks attacks to the head, but allows them to make contact to any other target. The defender therefore has to stay alert and aware. Another is for the defender to put their hand right in front of their face (and this means resting on it), with the attackers making single chodan zuki, jun or gyaku. As these attacks come in, the defender has to use furimi to slip the head either side of them.

For my money, I think there are important differences between sparring and randori - there is much more of an element of play, albeit play in earnest about randori. Neither partner should have any ego invested in it, which in a sparring situation where there will be a 'winner' and a 'loser' is much harder to avoid. For beginners or more junior students, I think it's vital to introduce randori in a structured way through the kind of exercises described above. otherwise they're unlikely to get much out of it, certainly in terms of learning about Kempo. For more senior students, I think still making randori exercises more technically demanding , like specifying attacker/defender, certain patterns of attack and defence is important in terms of making them see it as an exercise in doing kempo rather than simply fighting.

Tony leith

7th March 2003, 14:06
I understand the point being made by the Hombu instructors. Your movements during randori should be underpined by reflexes developed during hokei practice.

However, I diverge from Mr Dolce's interpretation after that. An objective of randori is to help your partner overcome defects in their defence, not just in the dojo but also in real-life. This introduces strategy which, in turn, introduces tricks and (dare I say it?) dirty tricks.

A proper study of Shorinji Kempo need to embrace how Kempo techniques can be applied in situations that do not normally arise from hokei practice. These include having your foot stepped on, being grappled and any other manner of attack limited only by imagination and ferocity.

It is my experience however, that this apsect of randori can only be learnt when someone-else is successfully performing these techniques on you. We are fortunate at Abbey Dojo that our Sensei encourages us to study this aspect of randori.

Two of the Five Elements of Atemi are more relavant here: Speed and Strategy (under pressure). Whilst a good book would be useful, the best way to practice these under pressure is to do randori with someone who is better than you.

On Speed: I have noticed that speed has several components. For the purpose of this discussion, the relevant components are:

1. Detection - being able to quickly see what attack is being made, in practice, this needs to be pattern recognition.

2. Analysis & Decision - deciding action to take, in practice, this needs to be a conditioned response.

3. Acceleration - body motion, in practice, this need to be plyometric or at least fast twitch.

4. Impact Velocity

The last 2 components are improved in normal hokei practice. The first two however can only be improved in sparring.

In short, my conclusion is that to improve in randori, the best way is to practice it as much as you can with as many people as you can. This may be more or less useful to different people.

Gary Dolce
7th March 2003, 15:15

Mr. Lo,

Interesting post! I doubt that our interpretations differ as much as you may think. I agree with your conclusion that to get better at randori, you need to practice it more and with more partners, assuming that you already have a strong understanding of the basics. But I also think there can be a tendency to focus on too much randori, too hard, and too early. The result can be a separation of techniques into two classes - what people do during hokei practice and what they do during randori. When these two classes look completely different (i.e., hokei no longer recognizable during randori), then I think we are not on the right track. My point is that if you can't make basic techniques like uchi uke zuki, uwa uke geri, etc. work during randori, then maybe you don't really understand them well enough yet to be doing randori. Slowing down the speed of the randori a bit, using more limited attacks, etc. and doing more hokei practice with critical review (i.e., not "just going through the motions") are ways to help build that understanding of basics so they can be applied in ever more difficult situations.

I also agree that it is useful to practice randori in situations that do not normally arise out of hokei practice. I do find that this is often difficult to accomplish without getting serious injuries and I am very interested in learning the practice methods you use for this.

One last question concerning the Five Elements of Atemi test question:
I have always thought of the five elements as speed, accuracy (or target), distance, angle, and timing. I think of "strategy" as something that applies to all of the elements, but in your example you list it as one of the five. I am interested in a fuller explanation, as I might want to incorporate your view into future howa on this subject.

BTW - I would like to make one disclaimer. I am not an expert in randori - in fact I would describe my own abilities as mediocre at best. But I have been influenced by teachers who are not only very good at randori, but also have very strong views of what is the right way to practice it (both technically and philosophically). I try to emulate their approach and make my own slow progress. I am open to learning new ways of practicing randori, but once it stops looking like Shorinji Kempo, or feeling like an application of Kongo Zen, I stop.


7th March 2003, 18:34

Mr Dolce

If I have given offence, please accept my apologies.

I am of two minds about the early use of randori in training. On the one hand, you have a very valid point about slowing randori down if basic techniques cannot be made to work. On the other hand, realistic randori is "messy" and, in my opinion, will remain so if the two parties are of similiar ability regardless of seniority, only the perception changes.

What do you mean about when something stops looking like Shorinji Kempo? When things are chaotic, cleaniness of form degenerates. It is the ability to cope with this chaos that is also being practiced. An analogy can be made to driving lessons. There will always be a first time that you are driving for real and interacting with other road users. No amount of book preparation really prepares you for the reality. Gunte randori is a useful tool, but it is not a panacea.

I have observed that different people start at different levels of natural ability in how easy they mentally take to randori. I think it comes down to this. When you use jun zuki for real, is it for the first time you hit someone or the ten thousandth time you have executed jun zuki? I remember something an instructor said: "Kempo is not a race. It is a marathon. It does not matter where you start, only where you are."

At Abbey, we do not have any magic formula about avoiding injury when practicing hard randori. I get hurt as often as anyone else. I just practice hard randori less in my old age.

We do not have different definitions of the Five Elements of Atemi. We have been taught that timing and strategy are part of the Fifth Element.

Gary Dolce
7th March 2003, 20:22

Mr. Lo,

No offence was taken. If people can't disagree without being offended, we are in a sorry state. I'm not even sure how much we disagree.

What I mean by "when it stops looking like Shorinji Kempo" is when the principles that underlie the techniques seem to disappear entirely. I understand that cleanliness of form is much harder to express in randori. But I question the productiveness of taking this to the extreme. A few years ago, I watched a Shorinji Kempo randori tournament in which the vast majority of the action consisted of the fully armored Kenshi wildly swinging at each other with no regard for dodging, blocking, defensive footwork etc. It was extremely rare to see the application of a technique consisting of dodge/block and counter attack. To me, this was not Shorinji Kempo. But of course, that is just my opinion.


8th March 2003, 07:19

Randori/application practice is in my opinion very, very important practice. But I also believe that many teachers and clubs makes it a very special thing. They tell their students, “you have to wait doing randori until you understand basics better, you need to better your zuki wasa before you can do free randori, you need to better you your keri wasa before you can do free randori, you need to understand that only a few student like randori so we need to practice on special occasions etc etc.
As I said before at this forum: This is CRAP!!! ;)

Randori can be done from, maybe not day one, but surely day two. In the curriculum to sankyu and nikyu you have great tools for randori/application (Goho). The critical thing is not in the students knowledge about techniques but in their attitude towards the randori/application practice. If your teacher have that attitude as I stated above, randori will be a special thing, a practice that only a few like etc etc. If you are interested in randori you must get the right attitude towards it.

In my opinion there is basically three attitudes that the student will have when doing randori: fear, anger, and a playing attitude with humbleness and gratitude. If randori is done very seldom it becomes a very special thing and this makes the students feel fear or anger because they are not used to the situation.
Everyone remembers their first experience doing randori in the dojo. You are jumping around in the dojo with protection equipment you very seldom have used, maybe a taped square on the dojo floor for this special occasion, adrenaline rushing through your body. You are full of fear, not sure if your attack is going to be countered, and you will get hit. Your fear holds you in a tight grip: you extreme problems feeling comfortable because you are worried about getting hit.

On the other hand if you feel anger you will only think about the best techniques to use to hit and you maybe think, "How dare this lower grade student hit me straight in the face!" In anger you start to chase the lower grade student around the dojo to show him who is in charge. The only thing you know do is to show a big insecure ego and bad attitude towards your fellow training partner.

In both of these scenarios fear and anger will make your randori unbalanced and surely not fun.
The best attitude to have in randori is a “playing” humble attitude with no ego. If you are doing randori with a lower grade student, and you get hit, you have must understand that you just received some really good feedback on your defensive work—they are not working! Try not to become angry but show gratitude towards you training partner. THANK YOU VERY MUCH! As a result, you learn what your weak points are, and can improve them. By remaining calm, you can study your partners attacks and counter in a proper way. If you have this attitude towards randori practice you can do it for what it is meant: learning to understand Shorinjikempo technique in a unpredictable way.

Here a some tips for good randori practice
1. Do randori every training sessions – The student will now understand that this is not a special practice for blackbelts or the tough guys in the dojo o doin.
2. ALWAYS have protection equipment like small gloves, shin protectors, mouth guard, and a kinteki cup - if you do a lot of light randori without protection equipment the results will be dead hard randori when you put equipment on.
3. Do a sincere gassho rei before starting to “play” and a sincere gassho rei afterwards – If you make gassho rei after every hit you get or when you hit your partner the play will totally focus on hitting and surely not on taisabaki , umpoho, correct parrying etc which is fundamental for improving your randori.
4. Play with light to moderate contact during randori – Never to hurt, but to make the student aware that the technique really could have done some damage.
5. Always have a goal in mind – This will keep you focused on your “play” and away from competition attitude during randori. Ex. If you know that you need to work on protecting your groin. Train free randori and let your training partner focus on trying to see your bad habits when kinteki geri comes at you. Use short words, body language to help each others during randori. Be openhearted with no ego even if you are a teacher and practice with a sankyu that telling you your weak points.
6. Make the practice fun – If it is not fun and interesting someone is sure trying to show his big ego. Maybe it is you? ;)

Johan Frendin

8th March 2003, 07:51
At the risk of sounding cliched, the main problem in teaching randoori seems to be that there are two groups of people; those that love doing randoori, and want to practise at every opportunity, and those that hate it.

How do you handle this split ?

Indar Picton-Howell

colin linz
9th March 2003, 23:17
I think of randori as any other skill. It needs to be broken down into digestible pieces, and then begin to tie them together to form the whole. My belief is that Shorinji Kempo should develop people. By starting full on randori before students are ready they will either show natural skill, or be under so much stress that the lesson will be of little use to them, this may even lead to them giving up. If this happens we have failed one of our key objectives, to develop people.

Whenever we go to Hombu we learn much the same techniques as we do at home, however they will normally deconstruct the technique into a number of key elements, we then practice them separately until tying them all together latter in the lesson. This teaching philosophy is common to all learning areas; randori should be treated no differently.

With this in mind why don’t we try and break randori into it’s key elements and develop some methods of training that can be gradually built on to reach the final skill. This forum represents a good opportunity for us all to use each other’s experience and answer our own question.

tony leith
10th March 2003, 10:03
This is why I enjoy this forum so much, the level of discussion is really pretty good. Anothger robust contribution for Johan -no mincing words form him. I actually disagree with him re. the use of protective equipment, though here may be some confusion about what the term randori actually means. To me (and I think to most other participants here) it does not necessarily mean tournament style sparring wearing dos, space helments etc. Randori simply means the free practice of techniques in attack and defence - to be sure this can be done usefully wearing protectors, but this is not the only mode of practice from which we can learn.

I would agree with Johan that randori should be practised at some levell from very early on, but I think there are risks of missing out on the benefits of randori training if always wearing protection ( see comments in the Fukodukohon). I would go along with the consensus that it should be introduced in a structured way to beginners - if just thrown into it, the talented at fighting will thrive, but those who aren't might well end up with a profound aversion to it, and it's the less talented who will probably benefit most from consistent randori practice. One thing that we epxerimented with quite successfully in Glasgow was a special 3 hour randori seminar, which built up confidence and competence through a series of progressive randori exercises. This seemed to help a lot of people who weren't getting much out of regular small doses of randori in class.

For me the key thing about randori is how it feels - good randori at whatever pace and however fast and hard has the feel of being play in earnest - there's no ego involved, just two people playing with Shorinji Kempo techniques to find out what works in a range of circumstances. I suppose simply put the difference is that in sparring the outcome is that somebody wins, in randori the outcome is that both participants learn something from every attack and defence combination.

Tony leith

Tripitaka of AA
10th March 2003, 18:42
I won't bother to quote the last paragraph in full, but Tony Leith has also got a way with words don't you think!

So nicely nutshelled, the attractions of randori (versus "sparring") become apparent.

As someone who "detested" randori, feared it and hoped it wouldn't happen tonight... I eventually realised that I would have to start getting better at it if I ever wanted to enjoy it. And do you know what, when I did get better, I enjoyed it, and when I enjoyed it, I got better.

Perhaps I'll just read Tony L's post again, it made a lot more sense :D

Anders Pettersson
12th March 2003, 21:28
Originally posted by tony leith
I don't have details to hand - maybe Anders or Steve do? - but I think Honbu have produced an instruction video on randori. I think Senseis Mizuno and Aosaka as well as Honbu technical staff were involved in making it.


Mizuno-sensei and Aosaka-sensei have been working on a video project that was supposed to be relased last year. However things have been delayed. In the last issue of Kaiho Shorinjikempo (monthly magazine published by Shorinjikempo renmei) there is an add on the Video/DVD that will be released in April by the company Quest. The video is called "Randori no susume": se attached pic.

Hombu on the other hand have made a "pamphlet" on a method for practice of randori, or Unyouho ‰^—p–@ (application method) as they seem to prefer to call it. This method is called Tachiai Hyoukahou (—§‰ï•]‰¿–@) which roughly translates as evaluation method of tachiai ("standing meeting"? can't figure out a good translation). This pamphlet is accompanied by a video describing how to use the new Bogu (Faceguard, Body protector [double layer DO], kinteki cup [double type]), how shimpan should act and how to do document the evaluation on a evaluation sheet.

In my opinion thew tachiai hyoukahou is a very good way to practice unyouhou/randori in a safe manner and that also provides a method for each kenshi to actually learn something from it.


Steve Williams
12th March 2003, 23:04
I didn't comment on the "Randori video" yet, as I was unsure when it would be released.

Now Anders has cleared that one up, I can say that I have seen an "Almost complete" video of it.........

It is basically Mizuno sensei and Aosaka sensei with a small number of British and French kenshi "assistants", showing you how to inprove your randori, for any grade and ability.

It will be awesome......

I understand that the delay is due to wanting to release a DVD at the same time as a video, and the fact of putting different language tracks on the DVD, if the video were to be released before the DVD then it would be out already.